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In 1969, Vietnam veteran Ron Ridenhour wrote a letter to Congress and the Pentagon describing the horrif¬ 
ic events at My Lai — the infamous massacre of the Vietnam War—bringing the scandal to the attention of 
the American public and the world. A copy of that letter is in this program. Ridenhour later became a respect¬ 
ed investigative journalist, winning the George Polk Award for Investigative Journalism in 1987 for a yearlong 
investigation of a New Orleans tax scandal. He died suddenly in 1998 at the age of 52. At the time of his death, 
he was working on a piece for the London Review of Books, had co-produced a story on militias for NBC’s 
Dateline, and had just delivered a series of lectures commemorating the 30th anniversary of My Lai. 


Without then being a journalist, he did what the anointed, professional journalists were failing to do: He told 
the truth about what he heard and saw in Vietnam. He was a brave man, therefore a free man. Maybe thats 
why his company was so palpably refreshing. Thoreau said that a thing done well is done forever. Rons act of 
exposing the massacre at My Lai is a light that will never die out in the world. Its meaning and importance are 
increasing steadily as time passes. What wonderful thing is it that makes one person step forward in the midst 
of horror to do what must be done? We ll never know, but we do know that Ron Ridenhour had it. 

Jonathan Schell is the author of many books including The Village of Ben Sue (1967), and 
The Military Half (1968), which describe the destruction of Quang Ngai province by the US military. 

It is risky to meet those who have acted heroically, or people whose writing you really like, because they remain 
heroes and great writers but sometimes you don’t like them. It was the opposite with Ron. He surprised me, 
he delighted me. He was funny and passionate, serious about justice, skeptical about achieving it ...We did 
not know each other very well; we knew everything about each other we needed to know. 

Marilyn Young is a professor of Asian history at NYU and the author of 
The Vietnam Wars: 1945-1990, one of the best histories of the war, 
as well as many other books. 

I have a small pantheon of heroes, mostly people like John Lewis and Bill Minor, the great Mississippi jour¬ 
nalist. Ron Ridenhour was one of them, too. We met late in our lives at a conference on My Lai in New 
Orleans. Meeting him, I thought of Bobby Kennedy’s favorite quote from Emerson: “If one good man plants 
himself upon his convictions, the whole world will come round.” So I quoted it — and turned to him and said, 
“You are that one good man.” He was an American original, an absolutely authentic man in an age that is 
increasingly inauthentic. His story encompassed the worst and finally the best of America. Because he was so 
wonderfully artless, his telling of it was uniquely powerful — it was like hearing the purest voice of the 
American conscience. There is nothing I cherish and value more than the nobility of ordinary people, and he 
was a sterling example of it. 

David Halberstam is a journalist and author of 19 books — including most recently The Teammates 
and Firehouse — who won a Pulitzer Prize for his eyewitness accounts of the Vietnam War. 


Ron walked point for us in many ways, taking the first heat, breaking the trail. He had a lot left to accomplish. 
We were sitting around in New York with Marilyn Young, Jonathan Schell and Grace Paley a few years ago, 
and Ron got started telling this distinguished group about a book project that he hoped to turn back to soon, 
a book about some massacres of black soldiers during WWII who were killed by the US Army for standing up 
for their rights as human beings. It was to be called Roster of the Dead , for Ron had a list of the many hundreds 
of men who had been massacred in Mississippi and in Arizona in 1943 and whose deaths had been covered 
up. He believed in many ways it nurtured the roots of the civil rights movement, a crucial first skirmish that, 
like so much in Ron Ridenhour’s American History textbook, had been repressed, deleted from American con¬ 
sciousness and the American conscience. Ron spends a lot of time laying out his story, and when he’s finished, 
Grace Paley, all five feet of her, Lower East Side Manhattanite and tough as nails, says, like a voice through 
parted clouds: “Ya’ know, ya have a responsibility to finish that book.” I believe it would have been Ron’s next 
extraordinary brush with history. 

Randy Fertel is president of The Fertel Foundation and founder of the Ron Ridenhour Awards. 

Ron was someone who mattered to me, one of my heroes, someone I thought about often, especially when¬ 
ever the world seemed too full of cowards and knaves and smiling, lying bastards. He was one of the good guys. 
I had shown Experiencing the Darkness, the 1994 oral history video about My Lai, to a group of students at the 
University of Illinois, using Ron and Hugh Thompson as proof that right choices are always possible, even in 
the midst of a world gone horribly wrong. ... Imagine what would and would not have happened had he not 
responded as he did. He changed history, and very much to his credit and honor. Moreover, his courage in pur¬ 
suing the truth proved to be the measure of the man, not just a passing moment. He was an honorable man, 
a decent man, and God knows there are few enough of those around. The world is better off for his having 
been in it, and a lonelier place now that he’s gone. 

W.D. Ehrhart is the author of Perkaisie/Vietnam and other memoirs, and the editor of 
Carrying the Darkness, a volume of poetry by Vietnam veterans. He lives in Philadelphia. 


What you have to understand 
About the government is that 
The motherfuckers lie. 

That’s the first thing. 

They lie. 

About the big things. 

About just about any goddamn thing 
You can think of when it serves their purpose. 

Don't get me wrong. 

You find honest people 
In the strangest places. 

So you never stop looking. 

But skepticism of a broad and deep range 
of government claims is a good thing. 

Ron Ridenhour 
(c. 1998) 


THE RON RIDENHOUR AWARDS seek to discover, recognize and encourage those who persevere in acts 
of truth-telling that protect the public interest, advance or promote social justice, or illuminate a more just 
vision of society. These awards memorialize the spirit of fearless truth-telling that one time whistleblower and 
lifetime investigative journalist Ron Ridenhour reflected throughout his extraordinary life and career. 

The Ron Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling is awarded to a citizen, corporate or government whistleblower, 
investigative journalist or an organization for bringing a specific issue of social importance to the public’s atten¬ 
tion. The Ron Ridenhour Book Prize honors the outstanding work of social significance from the prior 
publishing year. The prize also recognizes investigative and reportorial distinction. The Ron Ridenhour Courage 
Award is given to an individual in recognition of his or her courageous and life-long defense of the public inter¬ 
est and passionate commitment to social justice. Each of the three annual awards carries a $10,000 stipend. 


The Fertel Foundation 
The Nation Institute 


Electronic Privacy Information Center 
Fund for Constitutional Government 
Government Accountability Project 
Project on Government Oversight 


Dr. Helen Caldicott 
Frances FitzGerald 
David Halberstam 
Molly Ivins 
Susan Meisalas 
Victor Navasky 
Tim O’Brien 
Calvin Trillin 

For information on the Ron Ridenhour Awards, 
visit or 

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fostering the spirit of courage and truth 

The Ron Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling 

Joseph Wilson 

The Ron Ridenhour Book Prize 

Deborah Scroggins 

The Ro n Ridenhour Courage Award 

Daniel Ellsberg 

Wednesday, October 15, 2003 
The National Press Club 
Washington, DC 

“Whistleblowers have become the new heroes, leadership without arrogance, 

a bridge between power and humanity. ” 

Anna Quindlen wrote those words in Newsweek about eighteen months ago. They have become more true than 
ever, as we’ve seen clearly demonstrated in the past few weeks. Because of the three people we honor today, 
because of Ron Ridenhour, and because of hundreds and even thousands of others like them who are willing 
to take a risk for a larger good, we have access to the world’s most valuable currency— the truth. 

To recognize those people, to reward their courage, and to encourage others who follow in their footsteps, the 
Fertel Foundation and the Nation Institute established the Ron Ridenhour Awards. 

Like Ron Ridenhour (and Daniel Ellsberg), Ambassador Joseph Wilson first ably served his country and then 
blew the whistle on its misdeeds. Ambassador Wilson wrote in his New York Times piece that “American for¬ 
eign policy depends on the sanctity of its information. ” Flis courageous act came at a high personal cost, when 
this career diplomat and his wife were relentlessly — even dangerously—attacked by the conservative press. 
However, in the spirit of Ron Ridenhour and My Lai, the benefits of his action to foreign policy and to our 
democracy were great. Ambassador Wilson seems not to have lost his cool or his sense of humor during a dif¬ 
ficult time. Ron would have admired that. 

In Emmas War , Deborah Scroggins helps us understand a brutal civil war that went on for a decade or more, 
largely beneath our radar. Scroggins focuses on Emma McCune, a British aid worker who, like Graham 
Greene’s eponymous hero in The Quiet American , had “lovely motives for all the trouble [s]he caused.” 
Scroggins also connects the elements at the heart of the civil war with the very issues that are shaking the foun¬ 
dations of the West right now. We seem certain that, to succeed, the Third World just needs to embrace our 
liberal education and liberal democracy. Scroggins’s book helps us understand how our certainty and self-sat¬ 
isfaction fuel the concern and the ire of the fundamentalist world. 

Ron Ridenhour’s revelation of My Lai shined a bright light on the way the American military sometimes func¬ 
tions in the field when the enemy is ambiguous and the field of battle especially treacherous. Daniel Ellsberg 
knew a lot about that too. But his revelation of the Pentagon Papers shined a light as never before on how the 
Defense Department and the White House functioned back in Washington, when they knew from the first 
that the war was both unpopular and unwinnable. These are lessons we are still learning. 

Whistleblowing and truth-telling are not so much acts as callings. When our fellow citizens have the courage 
to speak, we must have the wisdom to listen — and then to offer our gratitude. 

Randy Fertel 

President, Fertel Foundation 



Welcome and Introductory Remarks 

Hamilton Fish 

President, The Nation Institute 

Ron Ridenhour, Whistleblower and Investigative Journalist 

Randy Fertel 

President, The Fertel Foundation 

The Ron Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling 

Presenter: Katrina vanden Heuvel 

Editor, The Nation 

Recipient: Ambassador Joseph Wilson 

Former US diplomat in Iraq and 
former Ambassador to Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe 

The Ron Ridenhour Book Prize 

Presenter: Professor Albert May 

Director, School of Media and Public Affairs 
George Washington University 

Recipient: Deborah Scroggins 

Author, Emma’s War: An Aid Worker, Radical Islam, 
and the Politics of Oil — A True Story of Love and Death in the Sudan 

The Ron Ridenhour Courage Award for Lifetime Achievement 

Presenter: Gloria Emerson, Author 

Recipient: Dr. Daniel Ellsberg, 

Author, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers 


The Ron Ridenhour Prize For Truth-Telling 

Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a specialist in sub-Saharan Africa as well as the Middle East, is honored for going 
public with the CIA’s February 2002 request that he investigate whether Iraq was seeking uranium from 
sources in Africa and his finding that such a scenario was highly unlikely — months before President Bush 
repeated the allegation in his 2003 State of the Union address. Wilson’s revelation raised questions about the 
Bush Administration’s truthfulness, and undermined its claim that it had ample evidence to justify an invasion 
of Iraq. One week later, conservative columnist Robert Novak wrote that Administration officials told him 
Wilson’s wife was a CIA agent, a serious allegation that either blows her cover or inaccurately labels her. 

Wilson was a member of the US Diplomatic Service from 1976 until 1998. Wilson served as special assistant 
to the President and senior director for African affairs at the National Security Council from June 1997 until 
July 1998. In that capacity he was responsible for the coordination of US policy to the forty-eight countries of 
sub-Saharan Africa. He was one of the principal architects of President Clinton’s historic trip to Africa in 
March 1998. 

Wilson was the political advisor to the commander in chief of United States Armed Forces, Europe, 1995 - 
1997. He served as the US Ambassador to the Gabonese Republic and to the Democratic Republic of Sao 
Tome and Principe from 1992 to 1995. From 1988 to 1991, Ambassador Wilson served in Baghdad, Iraq, as 
deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy. During “Desert Shield” he was the acting ambassador and was 
responsible for the negotiations that resulted in the release of several hundred American hostages. He was the 
last official American to meet with Saddam Hussein before the launching of “Desert Storm.” 

Wilson was raised in California and graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1972. He 
is a graduate of the Senior Seminar (1992), the most advanced International Affairs training offered by the US 
government. He holds the Department of Defense Distinguished Service Award, the Department of State 
Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards, the University of California, Santa Barbara, Distinguished Alumnus 
Award and the American Foreign Service Association William R. Rivkin Award. Additionally, he has been dec¬ 
orated as a commander in the Order of the Equatorial Star by the government of Gabon and as an admiral in 
the El Paso Navy by the El Paso county commissioners. 

Ambassador Wilson is CEO of JCWilson International Ventures, Corp., a firm specializing in strategic man¬ 
agement and international business development. He is married and has two sons and two daughters. 


The Ron Ridenhour Book Prize 

Deborah Scroggins is author of Emmas War: An Aid Worker, Radical Islam, and the Politics of Oil-A True Story 
of Love and Death in the Sudan (Pantheon, 2002). It is both the riveting story of British aid worker Emma 
McCune and Riek Machar, the local warlord she marries, and a revealing look at the Sudan: a world where 
international aid often fuels armies instead of the starving, and where the Islamic government is locked in bat¬ 
tle with the pagans and Christians over religion, oil and slaves. Emma’s War is being produced as a film star¬ 
ring Nicole Kidman. 

While covering Sudan as a young journalist, Scroggins fell in love with the country and its people, despite the 
country’s poverty, slavery and ongoing civil war. On one of her many trips to the war-torn area in the early 
1990s, she encountered Emma McCune, a glamorous khawaja (white) aid worker from the UK. Against all 
expectation, Emma met and married Riek Machar — a local warlord who already had a Sudanese wife. For 
Scroggins, Emma personified the extremes of the Western adventure in the Sudan, which started in the early 
1800s: the naive romanticism, the terrible price and, ultimately, the love, however blind and misguided. 

Scroggins’s proximity to not only the relationship between Riek and Emma (who was killed in a car accident 
in 1993), but also to Sudan and Africa’s longest running civil war, gives Emma’s War its passion and brutal hon¬ 
esty. As Scroggins writes, she was one of many Americans and Europeans who journeyed to Sudan “dreaming 
they might help and came back numb with disillusionment, but forever marked.” 

Scroggins lives in Atlanta, where she was born and raised. She left Atlanta at 16 for college; she earned her mas¬ 
ter’s degree at Columbia University and had lived overseas for a few years by the time she was 24. While work¬ 
ing at the United Nations Association in New York, she was assigned to a project examining famine in Sudan. 
Soon the Atlanta Journal-Constitution offered her a job reporting on the ravaged country. For several years, she 
worked for the paper, covering Sudan and Somalia. In 1994, the Journal-Constitution reassigned her to a desk 
job, and she returned to Atlanta where she raised two daughters with her husband. Now a freelance writer, she 
has won several national journalism awards, including Overseas Press Club Awards and the Robert F. Kennedy 
Journalism Award. 


The Ron Ridenhour Courage Award 

Dr. Daniel Ellsberg, a lecturer, writer and activist, is most well-known for leaking a 7,000-page document 
detailing how the Vietnam War was planned, which had been prepared for Pentagon internal use. He gave it 
to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and long excerpts ran in the New York Times in 1971. The 
Washington Post and seventeen other papers also ran excerpts. The publication of the Pentagon Papers, as they 
came to be called, was an explosive event illustrating to the public how uncertain US prospects of winning the 
war in Vietnam had always been, despite the assurances of public figures. 

Ellsberg was born in Detroit in 1931. After graduating summa cum laude from Harvard in 1952 with a BA 
in economics, he studied for a year at King’s College, Cambridge University, on a Woodrow Wilson 
Fellowship. He served in the Marine Corps and then was a Junior Fellow in the Society of Fellows, Harvard 
University. He earned his PhD in economics at Harvard in 1962; the dissertation was published in 2001. 

In 1959, he became a strategic analyst at the RAND Corporation, and consultant to the Department of 
Defense and the White House, specializing in problems of the command and control of nuclear weapons, 
nuclear war plans and crisis decision-making. He joined the Defense Department in 1964 as special assistant 
to assistant secretary of defense (International Security Affairs) John McNaughton, working on Vietnam. He 
transferred to the State Department in 1965 to serve two years at the US Embassy in Saigon, evaluating paci¬ 
fication on the frontlines. 

On his return to the RAND Corporation in 1967, he worked on the top secret McNamara study of US deci¬ 
sion-making in Vietnam between 1945 and 1968, which later came to be known as the Pentagon Papers. In 
1969, he photocopied and leaked the study. His trial, on twelve felony counts posing a possible sentence of 115 
years in prison, was dismissed in 1973 on grounds of governmental misconduct against him, which led to the 
convictions of several White House aides and figured in the impeachment proceedings against President Nixon. 

In 2002 Ellsberg published Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.